Friday, March 28, 2008

The Saga of Christ Lutheran Mission of Princeton, MN

In light of things going on in the LCMS in the name of "missions," I thought this story of a mission that is getting no funding or support of any kind from synod needed telling. -- Izzy

Two years ago two families began talking about forming a new church in Princeton. It was agreed this would be a confessional/orthodox congregation using the Historic Lutheran Liturgy. The LCMS churches in the circuit were all moving away from this practice and we felt there was a need.

We approached the pastor of the congregation both of us belonged to at the time Faith Community Lutheran in Zimmerman, MN and Rev. Jim Walburg about Faith Community Lutheran becoming a mother church. We were told that the time was not right. In our discussions with Pastor Walburg it became clear to us that the time would never be right, especially for a congregation that was to reject the Church Growth Methods and be Lutheran to the core.

This left us with the following options. The country church about 7 miles outside of Princeton, Zion, to the west Zion, Crown and to the north Saint Paul's Milaca. All three of these congregations had or were in the process of throwing their confessional orthodox pastors out unscripturally and were in turmoil. The option to approach them was not there, besides these congregations were not like minded to what we had a vision for a Church in Princeton. A decision was made to proceed with a weekly Bible study.

We communicated our intentions to the MN North District mission facilitator Rev. Strochiem and began meeting. Pastor Strochiem suggested we do a study on natural church growth; we were skeptical about this program but went along. We were blessed to find the services of a retired LCMS pastor who lived in Princeton to lead our studies and began with 6 families.

After a year and a half of meeting in Bible Study we had grown to around 20 and had outgrown the home we began in and started meeting in a local business storefront on Main Street. The people meeting were ready and asking for the Divine Service. We found two pastors who shared our vision and were in good standing with the LCMS, Rev. Paul Anderson and Rev. Robert Lawson Sr. both lived in Princeton and were without a call. They agreed to conduct services for us.

We then approached the MN North District office for their blessings to start holding Divine Service on Sunday mornings. We asked for no funds from the district -- just their blessing to begin holding Divine Service on Sunday morning. We met this time with the President of the MN NorthDistrict, President Don Fondow and asked for the districts blessing. We explained we wanted to be an orthodox/confessional congregation using the historic Lutheran liturgy. We were told he would put us on the agenda for the next meeting of the MN North Board of directors as they would need to approve of the mission start.

So we waited even though we knew it was not required of us to do so. The Board of Directors meeting came and we were not given an answer but were told they were formulating a letter and that they wanted to present it to us in person at the district office. A date was set for this meeting. A snowstorm hit Minnesota on that date and not all were going to be able to be in attendance. The district office wanted all to be there so the meeting was rescheduled for a month later.

I asked President Fondow if we could go ahead and start meeting in Divine Service. His response was do what you need to do. I asked him if this meant to do what we needed to do but just do not tell him about it and he said yes. We took this as a green light and held our first service on Ash Wednesday.

After meeting a couple of weeks we were uncomfortable conducting divine service without a called pastor per Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession. The congregation extended a call to Rev. Robert Lawson Sr. and he accepted. Pastor Lawson is a pastor in good standing with the LCMS having colloquied into the LCMS from the ELS.

The date finally came for our meeting at the MN North District office. Rev.Paul Anderson, Rev. Robert Lawson Sr., Ron Rickers and I all attended. We walked into the large conference room and were meet with Rev. David Cloueter Jr., Rev. Strochiem, President Fondow, Rev. Halverson, Rev. Jim Walburg, Rev. Zellers and Rev. Brill.

The inquisition then began. We were required to defend what we were doing, which is only what the Lutheran church has been doing for hundreds of years. We were asked repeatedly what was more important to us -- the Historic Lutheran Worship or reaching out to the unchurched. Our answer was that you cannot separate the two and they were not exclusive with each other. They still kept asking us if we would be willing to compromise the service to win more souls for Christ.

This went on for three hours. Then they told us they wanted us to rescind the call toPastor Lawson. We indicated that we were not happy about doing that and that we could not make that decision the whole congregation would have be involved in a decision like that, and that we had concerns about Article 14of the Augsburg Confession. They responded that the call was not proper as a colloquies pastor, Pastor Lawson needed to be placed in his first call. Our response was that since we are not officially an LCMS congregation we were acting as an independent Lutheran congregation.

It then was suggested that we find a sponsoring congregation that could then call Pastor Lawson to serve the people at Christ Lutheran Mission. We went home feeling like we had been through the ringer.

The congregation at Christ Lutheran Mission came to unanimous consent not to rescind the call and set out to find a sponsoring congregation. We found one that appeared to be willing to do this at Saint Paul's, Ogelvie, outside of the Rum River Circuit but a half an hour north of Princeton.

Word got out to the pastor's in the Rum River Circuit that we were going outside the circuit. Now suddenly a congregation appeared in our circuit that was willing to consider being a sponsor -- Pastor Zellers at Saint John's Webber (North Branch), at the far reaches of the circuit some 45 minutes away.

A meeting was set between the leaders at Saint John's and Christ Lutheran Mission. We arrived at this meeting and the first thing we were hit with was that Pastor Zellers had been in communication with President Fondow in the district office and Saint John's would not be calling Pastor Lawson to serve the congregation at Christ Lutheran Mission. We were confused to say the least, as we understood this to be the advantage to us having a sponsor. We also were required once again to defend how we worship using the Historical Lutheran Liturgy. We use page 15 out of TLH, the pastor and the congregation both chant and we practice closed communion. All things have stood the test of time and have been done by the Lutheran Church for hundreds of years.

The congregation of Christ Lutheran Mission then decided to take a different option which we always had available to us. We stopped all efforts to become a mission congregation of the MN North District of the LCMS and determined to officially establish ourselves as an independent Lutheran congregation then to apply for admission to the MN North District of the LCMS.

We began working on our 501 (c)(3) and were told by President Fondow that to apply for admission as an established congregation all we needed to do was submit our constitution and when accepted we would be in. We have done this and are awaiting an official response from the Constitution Committee of the MN North District.

In the mean time President Fondow and Rev. Strochiem (Mission Coordinator) attended a Winkle of the Rum River Circuit. The recommendations that have come out of this meeting was that the circuit pastors wanted to put together a committee to come and interview each and everyone of our members individually. The congregation of Christ Lutheran Mission felt this was just a fishing expedition to find a reason not to admit us and unanimously declined to attend another inquisition, and since we have already faced two inquisitions that this is not required of us.

We now have been informed that the pastors of the Rum River Circuit have sent a letter to the District Office indicating their non support of Christ Lutheran Mission. We are now waiting to hear from the District Office on the acceptance of our constitution. The committee met over 1 month ago and we have not received any official word.

What is most surprising to me is that all this is happening in what is supposed to be one of the more conservative districts in the LCMS.

Lord have mercy!


[Richard Scott, layman, Christ Lutheran Mission, Princeton, MN,]

What "Everyman" Needs

The man in this excellent video clip from ER is "Everyman." What he needs is a real Lutheran pastor (not one of those fake ABLAZE! facilitator/admistrator thingies) to take him to the cross and the empty tomb -- that is, to take him to Baptism.

Will he be able to find one in the LCMS 10 years from now?

A consuming fire,
The glory of the LORD
burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire;
quenching the thirst from an eternal spring
The grace of the LORD,
A living water

He needs to hear the truth instead of a bunch of feel-good nonsense. He needs the work of God through Word & Sacrament rather than the work of men through their passion and good intentions.

3. Although the works of man always appear attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.
4. Although the works of God always seem unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really eternal merits.
21. A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.
[Heidelberg Theses #s 3,4, & 21:]

Sunday, March 23, 2008

“He Is Risen! – from What?”

Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. John 20:8-9 NKJ

He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Yes, Jesus is risen . . .
. . . but from what?
He is risen from the grave.
He is risen from the temptations of the devil.
He is risen from the battle with sin.
He is risen from the taunts and torture of evil men.
He is risen from the unthankfulness, denial and betrayal of relatives and friends.
That is, He is risen from the dead! Alleluia!
He is risen, indeed, and it is Easter. Millions flock to church to celebrate – not as many as on Christmas, but if every Sunday were Easter Sunday . . .
And why is that? Why are churches full on Christmas and Easter, but not so much the other Sundays of the year?
Everybody has their own answer to that. They are called excuses. "I can’t come to church because ___________ ." Pick your best one. But dear people of God, when we say can’t, what we really mean is won’t. That is, it is not that we can’t it means we have something we deem better, more important, or at least more urgent.
Now that might explain why people don’t go to church most Sundays of the year, but it doesn’t really explain why they do go to church on Christmas and Easter. So what is it about Christmas and Easter that brings out the masses? Well, nostalgia and tradition certainly play a part. It’s just what you do. It is what Christmas and Easter are about.
But there is something more to it. I would submit to you that it is our desire and quest for glory. Christmas and Easter are for of glory. They make us feel good. They pump us up. And I suppose that is good. But that kind of high is not sustainable.
So we look for it in other places. Sunday TV is a good place to illustrate this search for glory. Perhaps the easiest way to find this glory is witnessing it. Sports provide a great way to participate in someone else’s glory. The trouble with this is, all we see is the glory, not what went into it. We see Tiger Woods win virtually every time. Yet how did he get to the point where lifting trophies has become so common place? – hard work and practice, and probably a bit of suffering and putting aside other, more fun and glorious things.
Scientific studies show that:
There are certainly minimal requirements to become an expert in a field. Generally you’’ll need to meet any minimal physical requirements, but beyond that, research is showing that how much time you spend practicing a skill far outweighs any amount of inborn talent, if there is such a thing, in showing whether you will learn a skill. In fact, we’’re talking about 10,000 hours of practice being needed to become a world-class expert in your chosen field. K. Anders Ericsson calls this the ten year rule [that’s three hours of practice a day for 10 years]. It takes about ten years of lengthy practice to become an expert in a field.
This isn’’t any sort of practice, though. It isn’t just repetition. It is was Ericsson calls effortful study. You have to be continually stretching yourself to reach beyond your current limits, not doing the same thing over and over and over. . . . To be able to flow, to derive optimal enjoyment from what you are doing, you need to be working on something that is challenging, but not beyond your limits. It has to stretch your skills, without being beyond them.*
There are at least two things we Christians can learn form this. One, since we are sinners at birth, given half of the child’s time is spent sleeping, that means we become expert sinners by the time we are 2. No wonder we call them the terrible twos.
Two, glory does not come easily or without effort and even pain.
Christmas is the beginning, but it does not save us.
Easter is the victory proclamation, but it does not save us.
Good Friday is what saves us – the Passion of the Christ, the death of God. "It is finished!" Jesus cries, and gives up His spirit. And you are saved because it is the death and condemnation you deserve – the punishment that you could never bear, being forsaken, left alone, by the Father. That is something that would utterly destroy you. But thanks be to God and His one and only Son, it something that never has to happen to you – unless you insist on it. For you have been baptized, forgiven of your expertise as a sinner – and delivered from it.
Take a look at what your Baptism means. Turn to page 325 in your hymnal. Look at the Second Part under the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. What benefits does Baptism give? Say it with me, please. "It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare." [Keep your place.]
If your baptism does all that, why jump back into that from which you have been rescued? Why become slaves of sin, death and the devil again?
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God i n Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Rom 6:1_13 NKJ)
Now look at the Fourth Part under the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. What does such baptizing with water indicate? Please readi it out loud with me again. "It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever."
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:4_7 NKJ)
So why, if Christ has raised into the heavenly places do we insist on diving back into the lowly places wallowing back in the muck of our sin and avoiding the very place where he continues to forgive our sins, bath us in His righteousness, train us for good works, and even give us His very body and blood that we may participate in His resurrection until we receive our own resurrected body?
It’s because church isn’t glorious enough for us.
But, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, [we see where His glory and ours really is to be found]. [F]or the joy that was set before Him [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." (Heb 12:2_6 NKJ)
Just as Jesus’ glory came by way fo the cross, so to does ours. Jesus’ glory is in His suffering and death. You want proof?
To this day, the resurrected Jesus insists on showing you His wounds. How did the disciples know the resurrected Jesus was the same Jesus they had followed and seen crucified? He showed them His wounds. He even had Thomas place his finger and hand inside those wounds.
How do you know the resurrected Jesus is here for you? For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes.
(1 Cor 11:26 NKJ)
The glory you seek in the world is in fact all that Jesus left behind. Those things that keep you away from church, it is precisely those things from which Jesus is risen – for you! So I suppose there is a third lesson to be learned from the ten year, 10,000 hours of practice theory – it takes perfect practice to make perfect. If you practice error and mistakes, you will just ingrain those errors and mistakes. No wonder we are so good at sin, eh?
For us the only perfect practice is that which is performed by Christ.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:8_10 NKJ)
This being the case, if we want to become accomplished Christians, we need to be where Christ puts His work into play. For it is only His work that forms us into the people he would have us to be for the sake of our neighbors – our friends, relatives, and the acquaintances with whom we come into contact during our every day lives. God doesn’t need our work, and nothing we do can approach His glory. But our neighbors do benefit from our work, whether for the daily bread of the world, or for the spread of the Gospel good news of Christ.
You want glory? Every Lord’s Day, and wherever and whenever the Word of God is proclaimed for the forgiveness of sins, glory is here for you – in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Please rise.
* From "Make Yourself an Expert," Shards of Consciousness, October 23rd, 2006 by Richard Cockrum,

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Father of Light, Father of Life

Last week’s Gospel lesson about Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well concluded:
The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When He comes, He will tell us all things."

Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."

Now today, we have a very similar conversation between Jesus and the man born blind.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, "Do you believe in the Son of God?"

He answered and said, "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?"

And Jesus said to him, "You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you."

Then he said, "Lord, I believe!" And he worshiped Him.

In both cases, Jesus has revealed himself to a social outcast of sorts. In the case of the Samaritan woman, Jesus reveals Himself as the Messiah to a woman of ill repute from a land of undesirables. In the case of the man born blind, the Son of God heals and reveals Himself to a man whose being born blind is an obvious indication that he too, must be a despicable soul, worthy only of God’s wrath and judgment. At least that is what both the disciples and the Jewish religious leaders thought.

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

The question betrays their own blindness, for they perceive God as a Father who punishes out of anger and vengeance at misbehavior and rewards out of pleasure and justice for righteous behavior. But the very Son of God has come to dispel such false belief and the teaching that fosters it.

God the Father is the source of every good thing. In the beginning He created the world as the perfect home environment for man. Apart from Him and His Son, nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:3b-5

The sinner does not comprehend from whence goodness and every blessing comes. Thus he is cut off from his life source. A loving father does not want nor allow his child to die without a fight. Yet neither does a loving father work by irresistible, overwhelming force. As the parable of the lost son and loving father (aka the Prodigal Son) illustrates, a responsible father allows his child to go his own way and to suffer the consequences, not as punishment, but as a lesson. And the father is also always there to welcome the child back when he has had his fill of what separation from the father brings – or doesn’t bring.

Why was the man born blind?

Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

The man was born blind for basicallly the same reason the lost son found himself hungry and alone and living with pigs. So that he might come to realize just what a wonderful life and father he had.

Is God a vengeful God? Oh yes, but not in the sense understood by the Pharisees or the disciples, or our own sinful thinking.

What is seen as vengeance and punishment in this world is actually the discipline of the loving Father that God is. If you think blindness is tragic, if you think that going hungry and living with pigs is unpleasant, if you think living in a world full of bloodshed, sickness and poverty is awful and the work of an unkind, uncaring God, remember this:
"The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! Matt 13:41-43 NKJ

Whatever you see happening now, it is only a hint of that which is to come – the vengeance that God will have on the last day which is not for personal retribution, but for the sake of the elect in order that sin, death and the devil will never assail them again. But for now, the Father exercises a different kind of judgment, one of discipline to prepare you for that which is to come – to deliver you from His wrath and into His blessings. Blindness and the troubles of this world, as horrible and difficult as they may be, are nothing compared to an eternity of blackness and emptiness and tribulation that comes with separation from God and all His goodness.

And Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind."

Sent by His loving Father, Jesus has come to reveal that which is yet to come. And to prepare you for it, and it for you, for Him, for His Father that you may receive nothing but good, nothing but life, both now and forever.

And thanks be to God, we not only get a glimpse of the judgment to come that we may avoid it for eternity, we also get a foretaste of the feast to come to whet our appetites and to give us hope in our time of trial and torment.

For you see, not only was that man born blind that the work and glory of God be revealed, not only do you have the ills and violence of the world as a tool for God’s discipline, you also have His Word dwelling among you this day and until He comes again in the Baptism, the Gospel proclamation, & the Table Fellowship He has established in His church, to forgive you all your sins and reveal the work and glory of your loving God who is always here to give you every blessing -- in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Saturday, March 1, 2008

“I Who Speak to You Am He”

A Sermon for the THIRD SUNDAY in LENT: February 24, 2008

TEXT: So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.

Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."
The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?"

Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw."
Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here."
The woman answered and said, "I have no husband."
Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband,' for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly."
The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship."
Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When He comes, He will tell us all things."
Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."

This ends the sermon.
No dear people of God, that does not mean you have just heard the shortest sermon ever preached by Pastor Hering. That distinction will probably never be taken away from the two minute sermon I preached on John 3:16 here some 10 years ago. Please forgive me for getting your hopes up.
The reason I closed this second full reading of our Gospel as ending the sermon rather than simply, "here ends our text," is this. This Gospel lesson is a lesson that teaches what a sermon is and a bit about how it does it. The purpose of the sermon has the very same purpose as the preaching and ministry of Jesus – so that the hearer can know that the Son of God has come and is now forgiving your sins to live with you forever.

Just as the One who spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well is the Messiah, the Christ of God, so too is the One who speaks to you
and gives you His body and blood to eat and drink today. If you remember your catechism from the days of your confirmation instruction, or if you turn to page 326 in LSB, you will find these words that you confessed and agreed with (and hopefully still do:
"I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself."

Now Luther did not make this up as his own private interpretation in order to brow beat people into submitting to his own authority and personal agenda. It is what Jesus commissioned His apostles to do and what they in turn commissioned pastors to do as they took the good news of salvation, "Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand," into every nation and established church congregations as they went. To wit:
Matt 16:19 -- "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (NKJ)
John 20:22-23 – And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." (NKJ)

Thus, in the order of Individual Confession & Absolution on p. 293 of LSB, immediately prior to absolving the penitant, that is pronouncing the sure and certain forgiveness of sins to the one who has just confessed, the pastor asks, "Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?" The penitant that then answers, "Yes," is told, "Let it be done for you as you believe," and then receives the absolute and certain benefit of having his sins forgiven right there on the spot, not strings attached.

The same is true for you every time you confess and are absolved in the liturgy of the Divine Service, which by the way leads to and finds it’s embodiment in the Lord’s supper as you feast with Christ and even receive his very body and blood by which you not only remember His death but participate in His resurrection.

So what does all this have to do with our text, that is the encounter and conversation between our Lord and the Samaritan woman at the well?

Well, . . . .
That encounter and conversation was in fact nothing if not a Law/Gospel sermon, perfectly preached by our Lord. This sermon is woven throughout the encounter, with a repetitive ebb and flow between revealing the woman's sinfulness and Jesus' forgiveness.

Now I am already well into the third page of today’s sermon (including the reading of the Gospel text), which tells me that there is not time to take you to and through every point of Law & every point of Gospel in the text – that is what our Bible studies are for. However *the* point of every instance of Law is to tell the Samaritan woman that there is no doubt that she is a sinner. And *the* point in every instance of the Gospel is to tell the same woman that the Son of God is there to forgive her. We’ll let one example of each suffice.

When Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband,' for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly." He is telling her that she is guilty of adultery. Now this is all the more stunning when He concludes their conversation by saying, "I who speak to you am He." In other words, he is telling her that though she is a poor miserable sinner, and everyone who knew about the Messiah as she did knew that the Messiah, that is Christ, as the Son of God could neither tolerate nor let sin live in His presence. His very coming was known to be for the purpose of purging sin from the world for the sake of His righteous ones.

So how could this be? There is no doubt the woman understood this man at the well was calling her a sinner, for when she went into the city she told the men there, "Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" (John 4:29, NKJ) Now from our text and the limited time that Jesus had with her at the well it ought to be obvious that the woman was not trying to say that Jesus had just given her a complete minute by minute record of her life from infancy to the present. What the woman was telling the men was that a man who claimed to be the Son of God had revealed her unrighteous, sinful life to her. In saying that she had had five husbands and was now living with a man not her husband, Jesus was calling her a loose woman and an adulteress. Now you do realize in so doing that meant he was saying that she deserved to be stoned to death, right. And yet, there he was with her, the Son of God in the flesh speaking with her in a firm, no nonsense, yet still loving way. This sinner deserving of death and damnation had been encountered by God and lived to tell about it.
Dear people of God, dear Samaritans, welcome to your well. Jesus has come here today to have an encounter with you just as certainly as He did with the Samaritan woman.
One is reminded of a conversation in which Jesus engaged with another woman of ill repute:
And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." (John 8:11)
Every sermon, every liturgy of the Divine Service, every gathering of the Church tells you the very same thing as Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, and the adulteress set to be stoned – or at least it should. Because that is what our Lord has commanded and instituted them and His servants to do.

It is not a popular message. It got the prophets stoned. It got our Lord crucified. It got every one of the Apostles except John put to death. But it is the only message of salvation. It is the only message of evangelism. It is the only message of stewardship. It is the only message of good works. It is the message that the Samaritan woman took into the city to tell the men.

And incidentally, in light of our scheduled meeting following the service today, every voters meeting is about making sure that sermon is delivered here at Trinity every Lord’s day in order to keep you with Christ in the one true faith. So that you and everyone who comes in contact with Trinity through your pastor (not just me, but whoever that pastor might be) knows, in the words of Jesus sermon to the Samaritan woman, "I who speak to you am He""the Messiah who is coming" – who already has come to forgive the sins of the whole world by dying on Calvary, who now comes today to forgive you and all who hear the Word and receive the Sacrament through the work of the Holy Spirit in His church, who will come again to deliver you and all believers from Adam to the last soul of these Latter Days in the resurrection of the Last Day to live with Him forever in the flesh with whom you now live but by faith in His Word of promise.

You --, and make no mistake about it, the pastor who speaks is included in and with that you – are just as guilty of adultery as that Samaritan woman, and that means you too deserve a death sentence of eternal damnation. And yet, once that has been made clear, our Lord is still here to tell you "I who speak to you am He." I have served your death sentence as the Son of Man and experienced your eternal damnation as the eternal Son of God. And I have risen victorious for you and stand here with you sinner – to forgive you all your sins and give you my eternal life – in the name of the Father and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen